Saying that Miles Ahead is a passion project for Don Cheadle is an understatement. The Oscar-nominated actor doesn’t just star as Miles Davis in this quasi-biopic; he also makes his directorial and screenwriting film debuts with the film. It’s an interesting project, in any case: rather than just focusing on a part of Davis’ life that audiences might know, a period in the late 1970s where Davis essentially retired from life. Since little about Davis’ life during this time is all that well known, rather than document it, Miles Ahead creates a what-if scenario that has him deal with a Rolling Stone freelancer (Ewan McGregor) who’s attempting to land an interview. The two of them get involved in a number of hijinks that are delivered with a palpable sense of attitude. The film also flashes back to Davis’ romance with first wife Frances Taylor (Emayatzy E. Corinealdi), whose photo on his album Someday My Prince will Come pops up rather regularly.
As I said, it’s an interesting approach to take for what’s technically a biopic in a loose sense. But it’s not always one that works. Truthfully, the flashbacks to Davis’ first marriage are far more interesting to watch, and the chemistry between Cheadle and Corinealdi is much stronger than that between Cheadle and McGregor. The flashbacks may be meant to help prop up the “current” storyline, but they’re far more potent. At the very least, though, Cheadle comes out strongly. His performance is top-notch, and his directorial skills are surprisingly solid. The script doesn’t quite hold up the same way, but it’s an entertaining effort, at least.